I've noticed that speakers from India shift the stress in some words such as 'adjective', 'sentence' or 'tendency'. They normally stress the second syllable and not the first one as most people are used to. Is there any particular reason for this? Is it a common tendency (never better said) amongst the Indians?

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    This undoubtedly is related to which language of the multiple languages spoken in India is their native language, and how that language handles stressed syllables. – Peter Shor Oct 30 '14 at 20:44
  • Yes,but I meant amongst English native speakers. – Hedione Oct 30 '14 at 20:47
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    But they're native Indian Enslish speakers, not American or British English speakers, right? So they'll pick up things like this from other Indian English speakers, whose accent was influenced by Hindu pronunciation. – Barmar Oct 30 '14 at 21:38
  • Are you sure most people pronounce it the way you are used to? Just because the people around you do it differently doesn't mean that's "normal". – T.E.D. Oct 30 '14 at 23:38
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    @T.E.D. I think he's describing something that's pretty commonly recognized as part of speaking English with an Indian accent. – Barmar Oct 31 '14 at 19:54

My experience with speakers of various Indian languages (and there are perhaps 50 languages with a million speakers apiece on that Tower-of-Babel of a continent; my sample was fewer than five) is that word-stress is less important than it is in English. I remember one exchange that went like this:

Me: "Hari, do you pronounce your name HA-ri or ha-RI?"
Hari: (blankly) "It's pronounced 'Hari'."

Contrast that with Vietnamese, where stress and tone are almost everything. I once confused the name of my tour-guide's friend Bo (middle tone, something like bought) with bò (falling tone, a little like but, and meaning "cow"). The guide and all her other friends thought that was hilarious. They were still repeating to each other and laughing uproariously when I flew home. The unfortunate Bo might still called "Cow" to this day.

  • As an Indian, normative word stresses are things that simply didn't exist for me till I started hearing about how Indian accents are uniquely incomprehensible. Like quora.com/Why-do-some-people-not-like-the-Indian-English-accent/… . – Milind R Mar 21 at 6:45
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    @MilindR — bizarrely, I had not looked at this entry for four years, until about 10 minutes before you commented on it. – Malvolio Mar 21 at 6:47

Pronunciation of many words in English vary worldwide. In English, words often have primary (and secondary) accents on the second (and fourth) syllables. See "pronunciation" and "computer." Perhaps Indian pronunciation has applied that construction to these words? Brits and Americans don't agree on which syllable to stress in "incomparable," for instance.

  • It is a mistake to claim that everyone on one side of the Atlantic stresses incomparable differently from how everyone on the other side of the Atlantic stresses it. – tchrist Dec 29 '14 at 23:42
  • That might be a... controversy. (OK, the joke might work better aloud: it's CONtroversy in the US, conTROversy in Blighty. And to bring us full circle: Blighty is a corruption of a Hindu word for village) – Malvolio Dec 30 '14 at 2:05

If English is my second language, learned from speakers of my native language, the phonology of the native language also determines how my English sounds. In other words, both sound similar despite the dissimilarity in vocabulary and sentence patterns between the two.


Furthermore, let's bear in mind that languages with membership in disparate language familiies do not share a common phonemic, syntactic, and semantic inventories. To speak a foreign language well, that means being easily intelligible to the native speakers of that language, is to learn to keep the features of one's primary language under lock and key, while employing a consciously acquired speech.

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    You should edit this into your original answer rather than adding it as a new answer. – KillingTime Jul 15 at 19:54

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